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Fatherhood Taboos

In any given marriage, there are those questions and phrases men should avoid uttering to their spouses at all costs because, well, they’re taboo. Nothing good can come out of them. For example, there was a time earlier on in my marriage, when I was nearly nine months pregnant with my first child, and I returned home from Babies R Us with a sizable ding on my husband’s fancy-schmancy sports car. When he shook his head and commented, “That’s why you have to park as far away as possible from people,” what spewed forth from my mouth by far exceeded the colorful language I used while in labor a week later; he never made mention of my parking preferences again. He also learned, over the course of our ten years together, to quit asking taboo questions such as “What did you do all day?”, “What did you make for dinner?”, and “How much did you spend shopping?”.

And as my husband and I raise our two children, I’m starting to realize taboo questions and statements transcend to the parenting realm as well. There are just some things a father should refrain from saying to his offspring. While I am grateful for the way my husband rolls up his sleeves and embraces fatherhood with bona fide interest and passion, I still can’t help but cringe each and every time he says the following to our children…

“You are sick.”

No no no no!, my head screams every time I hear my husband say this to our kids. No one should ever let his kids know they are sick! GAH! You tell them they’re sick, and the next thing you know they’re asking to stay home from school the next day, messing with your morning yoga class or work meeting, keeping you trapped on the couch as they cling to you through a maddening loop of daytime cartoons, and requesting things like home made chicken soup or chocolate milk shakes. You never, ever let children know they are sick. Rather you say to the flushed and shivering child, “Hmm. You feel a little warm. How about we give you some medicine?” Or you observe, between violent coughing fits, “Sounds like you have a little tickle in your throat. How about a lozenge?” You don’t ever put the idea into their heads that they may be sick; kids are savvy enough at putting ideas into their own heads. You need to take the wait and watch approach. And act accordingly.

“What do you want for dinner?”

UGGHHHH… I get all twitchy when I hear my husband ask my kids what they want to eat. Did you seriously just ask them what they WANTED for dinner? And what kind of response, pray tell, were you anticipating? Grilled chicken and asparagus? Pork tenderloin with roasted Brussel sprouts? ‘Cause they won’t be responding with anything of that nature. Instead, they’ll tell you Swedish Fish, PopTarts and Starburst. I understand “What do you want for dinner?” seems like an innocent enough question because we adults ask it of one another all the time. But the difference is that we would never respond with “Doritos” or “Ring Pops” because we grasp that they are not a germane answer to the question. Children have yet to develop the ability to discern appropriate responses when asked what they want to eat. Rather, they need two specific choices — preferably protein laden ones with an accompaniment that was either grown in the ground or plucked from a vine.

“I’ll lie with you for a little bit.”

A dad who readies his children for bed and tells them he will “lie with them a little bit” is essentially uttering one BIG. FAT. LIE. We aren’t fooled by what happens when dads go in there to lie with their kids for a little bit; we hear the snoring when we pass by the door. And believe you me, it sure as hell ain’t the kids! We moms all know that kids possess a chatterbox switch, and it flips at the precise moment they hear the words, “Time for bed!” Their sweet, lulling voices spin magical tales, and while they have yet to be taught grammar, it’s quite clear they’ve mastered the coordinating conjunction “and” and are able to employ it to weave a story that consists of one e-n-d-l-e-s-s sentence. There’s no respite for the weary to interject politely and wish them sweet dreams. Trust me when I tell you not to get into their beds when you go to tuck them in. It’s a trap. Rather, dads, tell them you’ll “stand beside them for a little bit” instead.

“Come with me to Target [insert any store], and maybe I’ll get you a toy.”

*Sigh* This is yet another taboo statement offered by the well-intentioned dad — but not for the obvious reasons. It has nothing to do with the plan to go to Target or anywhere else with the kids. In fact, we moms encourage you to take the kids out and about. (It makes you appreciate us even more at the end of the day.) And we have no issue with the phrase “get you a toy,” either. The problem is with the choice of the word “maybe.” Since “maybe” is commonly used to express possibility, it essentially conditions kids like Pavlov’s dogs to associate Target (or another store) with a toy purchase. I don’t know about you, but I personally can’t have this association ingrained in my children’s brains for a couple of reasons. First, I go to Target like every single f’ing day. Sometimes, I’ll drag the kids there for a second time just for the hell of it. I ain’t got the time nor the money to be buying toys every single time we go, and I ain’t got the patience to endure the cry/whine-fest that ensues when I crush their dreams. Furthermore, children cannot make this automatic assumption as we moms need it in our back pockets should we lose our shit and overreact to something they do. Getting the kids a toy at Target or elsewhere is the booby prize we offer when we know we’ve just been crowned “Mother of the Year.” [Insert sarcasm.] My advice is this: The next time you want to include the words “toy” and “Target” (or other store) in a sentence, be sure to insert the word “NEVER” — as in: “Come with me… and I’ll NEVER get you a toy.” Or just play it safe and leave out the whole toy part.

I realize there are enough parenting taboos out there. But dads, help a momma out by refraining from some of the above ones I’ve mentioned. We thank you in advance. xo

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